Why Is “Hell” Considered as a “Bad Word"?
Is hell a bad word? This question might more often
than not go answered or raise a heated debate from a multitude of people. Others might argue that Hell is only a bad word in a bad context and that hell is only a bad word because we let it be a bad word. From Wikipedia’s list of words that
can be categorized as exhibiting profanity nature, you
might realize that the word “hell” is not classified among the curse words.
Most profane words usually tend to describe a person, a body part, or an act
that is overly inappropriate and not socially acceptable.
The origin of the word Hell can
be traced back to Old English hel, hell, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch
hel and German Hölle, from an Indo-European root meaning "to cover or
Indeed many swear words have to
do with three things as we’ve already discussed above. These three things
revolve around bodily functions, God, or sex. As a swear word, however, hell
has many more meanings. For some reason, it's a relatively mild expletive, so
you're likely to hear it crop up fairly often.
i. What in this world of Hell is President Trump talking about?
ii. Bring me the
Horizon..."Go to Hell for heaven's sake."
iii. All good girls go to
hell they say. Well, that's where I actually belong. Now beg.
Hell’s negative connotation
makes the word the only one of its own that raises eyebrows just because of its
nature and origin which is purely a religious stand-off point. Questions might
then arise as to why the word is used in media stations including radio, TV and
even on social media including Twitter and Facebook (audios and videos) without
censoring or also being blacked out.
The large population might be curious to know
if there is any source may be from the dictionary that could point out the
severity usage of the word and what makes it be differentiated and categorized
differently from other vulgar words which are curse words in general.
In today’s English words, most
curse words which are everywhere even uttered by young kids across the street
and in school have to do with scatology or sex in a high degree.
Answer: You do and did. And about a
billion of your friends
For example, when we were in
primary school in the 1950s, the curse word "Get Bent" was a mild
swear, a little less severe than “shit.” Now it has no sense of being a bad
word, just a strong word in a context such as you bloody idiot drop dead. Other
words, such as "Stuff It," became more vulgar over the same period.
But this can be overruled after all.
Before World War I, some words
were considered to be blasphemes, but in comparison to today, there’s no big
deal as it was in the past. And in those times if you uttered those words, then
you’d face the consequences since these were curse words and it was a taboo to
speak such “curse” words. Today in The USA, the word “hell” is allowed when
broadcasting on TV and Radio and hence at times it is used as a placeholder for
modern profanity which isn’t allowed.
One might tend to guess that
the taboo can be related to the Judeo-Christian commandments whereby it was
wrong to call
the name of the Lord in vain (2nd or 3rd of the written
commandments depending on your religious sect)
Most people tend to have
different levels of interpretations some of which are very broad in nature and
hence in a society where you’re having both Jews and Christians once can
effortlessly see where a taboo like this one might end up bearing roots.
The word “hell” is used as a curse word referring to a curse
with relation to the eternal
damnation which is termed as a reward for wrongdoers (a place or
state of eternal suffering and separation from God). For example, “I’ve got to
get my life together. This damn heat has made me realize I can’t go to hell.”
For further reference as to what makes it to the list of profanities which
revolve around the concept of blasphemy then check out Wikipedia.
The word “profane” does come
from the classical Latin “profanes,” which in literal terms can be termed as
“before, or outside the temple.” Hence, this word had a meaning which was
directed towards destroying what was holy or desecrating the Holiness, and if
we can discuss what it meant bearing a secular purpose in mind, then it can be
traced from 1450s CE. Profanity was more tied to representing secular
indifference to the religion at significant and religious figures and when
compared to blasphemy which in general was an attack which can be categorized
as an offensive attack on a particular religion or religious figures and I was
considered as being sinful and a violation directed towards the 10 commandments.
All the above-discussed
reasoning is correct. To expand on the above explanation or discussion: There
are words that are taboo (things that goes divergent with respect to the
established norms be it social, political, religious or economic divergence)
primarily due to the fact that they relate to sex, ones that are taboo because
they relate to human or animal excrement, and ones that are taboo because they
relate to a particular religion. The last division is a little different because
the shock value comes from a sacred concept being used in a religious and at
the same time exhibiting a profane nature context, rather than from the word
itself involving profanity.
Let’s dig more or answer in
context the question of why "Hell" isn't expurgated when it comes to
media stations: The taboo around profane use of religious terms has relaxed in
recent years as compared to let’s say the biblical times depending on your
religion (I will use Christianity in this case-example) - (4,000 years ago (c.
17th century BCE) with the patriarchs - Abraham, his son Isaac, and grandson
Jacob) -probably due to there being less focus towards religion in general. All
curse words draw their vigor from the broader societal context, for example,
vast words considered as profane usually deal with body parts as cited above
and it's unusual, but usually, they target genitals and more often female than
male. When things become less taboo in society, they eventually become less
shocking as a curse because people by large already don't do them much, or they
stop doing these things over time. Then after a while, people forget why
precisely they were.
We can also factor in the fact
that most religious words were only profanities when they moved out of their
original context --which makes it harder to censor them entirely since it would
require a judgment of their usage in each case.
If you find it uncomfortable to
use profane words, then it's better if you find an acceptable alternative, for
i. Hell (Anglo-Saxon/Germanic) - Infernum
(Latinate form of the Anglo-Saxon)
ii. Fuck (Anglo-Saxon/Germanic) –
copulate (Latinate form of the Anglo-Saxon)
iii. Shit (Anglo-Saxon/Germanic) –
defecate (Latinate form of the Anglo-Saxon)
iv. Piss (Anglo-Saxon/Germanic) -
urinate (Latinate form of the Anglo-Saxon)
v. Cunt (Anglo-Saxon/Germanic) -
pudendum*/vagina (Latinate form of the Anglo-Saxon)
Words Translated as Hell in The Bible
Not even one of the words
transliterated as hell in the King James Version, the Old Testament and in the New
Testament has the meaning of modern word “hell” definition which is regarded as
a place of eternal, everlasting torment.
This does not bring the meaning
that the translators who did the marvelous job tried to deceive anyone, but
that the word "hell" has changed meaning throughout the years. The
English word hell grew into its immediate form and meaning. Initially, it only
meant a covered or hidden place (covered and not to be revealed). It signified
simply what was secreted or concealed (hidden) but gradually came to have the
meaning of an area of eternal suffering or otherwise an area of extreme
Recently, this can be testified
by the fact that English Bible translations to-date use the English word
"hell" gradually less. Not to mean that all translators have turned
liberal over the years, or don't actually base their belief the Bible, but
merely because they realize the English word "hell" does not convey
the correct meaning to modern readers. Reading in the 21st century is quite
complicated than in past centuries. In the 21st century, reading and learning
are endlessly linked in an increasingly visible web of physical and digital
In the current context of media
abundance, the word “Hell” has a different meaning from what “Hell” really
meant ages ago.
Words Translated as Hell
in the Bible
Tartarus is mention only once in the bible.
This is in 2 Peter 2:4 in King James Version. The verb form of the word
translates to “cast down to hell.” 2 Peter 2:4 KJV if God spared not the angels that
sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness,
to be reserved unto judgment;
therefore, has nothing to do with human beings or their judgment. The verse and
one that follows do not indicate what judgment will be. There is, therefore, no
reason to support that Tartarus translates to Hell, only tradition.
word Sheol has been translated to as grave 31 times, pit 3 times and
hell 31 times. The word has therefore been used to refer to three different but
related things in the bible. Today, it is only the King James Version and New
King James version bibles that refer to Hell as Sheol. Instead, Sheol widely
refers to the state or place of all the dead, whether they were good or bad. It
is not defined as a place of punishment, but instead, it is a place of
unconsciousness. Therefore, it cannot have the modern meaning of hell.
was the commonly accepted bible and was used during the ministry of Jesus. In
Septuagint, Hades translates to Sheol. Originally, Hades meant that which is
concealed/ unseen. Hell also meant something secret or concealed. Therefore,
when the KJV Bible was translated, the word Hades and hell could have had the
same meaning. However, this is not the same meaning as what hell means today.
Whatever hades means, it will not last forever as Hades and death will give up
their occupants and hades will be destroyed (Revelation 20:13-14). This is the end of both as
prophesied by Hosea 13:14.
word Gehenna also Geenna was a place in the south
side of Jerusalem. Gehenna is Greek for Hebrew words Gehinnom which means the
valley of Hinnom. From the Old Testament, one can
understand that the valley was a horrible place for the Jews. This is where the idolatrous burnt
their children alive for sacrifices to their gods. When they returned after their exile
in Babylon, the Jews turned the valley into bumping site where anything
considered garbage and unclean was burnt. There is no reason to believe that
the site has anything to do with punishment and eternal torment.
To answer the question as to whether
“Hell a bad word,” “hell” is used as a curse word and it is or (was) considered
blasphemous, and hence the word is considered profanity.
What People Say!
Interviewee 1: I work
with kids. Everything, literally everything could be a bad word. Audience is key.
But no, amongst adults I feel hell should be okay.
Interviewee 2: It
depends on who you're asking. Most peeps I know wouldn't say it is. But I know
some who would. I also know peeps who would PREFER you not to say it around
them, but won't say anything about it.
3: Hell is still not a swear in my vocab
Caveat: The above discussion is purely from an
English language perspective; this means that all that has been discussed above
may not apply to other languages or speakers of other words. If any proper
linguists would like to chime in this discussion, we'd love to see how this
holds up to more extensive scrutiny.